The geographical area of the “Beaujolais” extends along the eastern edge of the Massif Central between the Saône river to the east and the Beaujolais mountains to the west. Located in the Rhône and Saône-et-Loire departments, it is the southern extension of wine-growing Burgundy. The vineyard begins beyond the town of Mâcon and extends over a length of 50 kilometres to the Monts du Lyonnais on the outskirts of Lyon.
From east to west, over a width of about 15 kilometres, the vineyard covers the slopes and hills with rounded ridges that climb in stages from the Saône plain to the Beaujolais mountains in the west. The vineyard backing onto the eastern edge of the Massif Central is planted between 180 meters and 550 meters above sea level.
Established on granite soils in the north and limestone in the south, it produces red wine made from the Gamay N3 grape variety.
The variety of terroirs has made it possible to create twelve appellations of controlled origin, two regional and ten municipal or local. Even though it is an old vineyard, it is still present in the news, especially for the media coverage enjoyed by Beaujolais Nouveau.
The red grape vines are mainly planted with Gamay N3, known as “black gamay with white juice,” as opposed to Gamay dyers. This grape variety, excluded from Burgundy by Philippe II of Burgundy, (he nicknamed it the “very disloyal plant”) found in the granite sands of. It produces fine, very aromatic wines, and allows a wide range to be produced, from primeur wine (Beaujolais Nouveau) to wine with aging.
The white grape vines are mainly planted with Chardonnay B. Even if they are negligible on the surface, they give good wines, balanced and aromatic. A part is used to make Crémant de Bourgogne.
The carbonic maceration method explains a lot the specific type of wine produced there. The grapes are vatted whole and the vat closed for a few days. The saturation of the tank prevents the grapes from breathing, forcing them to an anaerobic mode of operation.
This development within the grape is like the start of fermentation. It produces some alcohol and aroma precursors. Then, the grapes are crushed and a traditional fermentation continues.
Beaujolais have long been associated with Lyon cuisine. Very fruity red wines are well suited to local charcuterie (jesus and rosette from Lyon, brioche sausage, fritons, etc.).
The white and red wines find good stakes with the cheeses of the region: goat cheeses, (buttons of panties, Mâconnais or Charolais) the fresh cheeses (in faisselle or the brain of canut) but also the soft cheeses with a flowery rind (Camembert, Saint-Marcellin, Brie, etc.) or blue-veined cheeses (Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme de Montbrison, Bleu de Bresse, etc.).
Each year, le «Nouveau» turns the third Thursday of November into a worldwide “happy day.” Thanks to its joyful fruitiness, tens of millions of people come together to celebrate their love of life. This moment of sharing has become the world week of Beaujolais, of all Beaujolais.
To enhance this exceptional heritage, Beaujolais has received the world label: UNESCO Global Geopark.
There are nearly 300 castles and bourgeois residences in the Beaujolais vineyard, including many wine houses.
If you want to follow the trail of the Sires of Beaujeu, go to the Château de Montmelas in Montmelas-Saint-Sorlin, a former garrison of its lords of the Middle Ages. The Castle dominates the surroundings from the top of its hill. In the nineteenth century, Viollet-le-Duc gave it a makeover with crenelated towers.
It has since been nicknamed the “Sleeping Beauty Castle”. Its vines are classified as Beaujolais Villages and on the bottles you will recognize the profile of the Marquis de Montmelas, whose family has owned the place for five centuries.
GPS coordinates: 46.15°N 4.65°E
Photos : Irina Rybalchenko